A Piece of Chinese Patriotic Education

The internet can facilitate friendship and understanding between the nations of the world. Umm… realization, anyway.
The China Digital Times published the text and a translation of an act that is apparently taught to Chinese schoolchildren – probably a local initiative by some nice Chinese patriotic teachers and unlikely to be publicly endorsed by the CCP Central Committee.

Excerpt (video included):

Lead: Earthquakes, shifting back and forth like the positions of Sarkozy, with his dirty tricks, trying to shake the great China
Lead: Did China retreat?
All: No. The Shenzhou-7 launched. We are victorious!
Lead: Pathetic Europe will never stop the insurmountable force of our great dynasty
All: Just the aftershocks from the earthquake would destroy France!

Radovan Karadzic Award

Radovan Karadzic Award

Here is Hermit’s cultural exchange plan: the patriotic teachers are asked to authenticate themselves and qualify for this Patriotic Award. After that, the teachers and their rock band can go on a world tour and achieve global cult status. From the money earned on their world tour, these outstanding educators can finance some aircraft carriers. Or they can spend the money in pubs and brothels to get a bit more relaxed.

Update, January 1 2009: A Linguistic Analysis…

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Related post: How Chinese Nationalism is different.

17 Responses to “A Piece of Chinese Patriotic Education”

  1. “…probably a local initiative by some nice Chinese patriotic teachers and unlikely to be publicly endorsed by the CCP Central Committee.”

    This sort of thing isn’t localised at all.

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  2. It’s not local in spirit – but if the CCP would admit to such results of its education, the kids could join the Chinese National Circus and travel the world.

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  3. To be clear: I agree with you that this stuff isn’t local. But it is meant for home use. I can imagine that the teachers will get a dressing-down, not for what they taught their poor students, but for making their patriotic endeavor globally public. This isn’t compatible with the “peaceful rise” propaganda applied on the global public.

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  4. JR, I am well aware of the indoctrination within the PRC education system. But as far as this performance is concerned, have you ever considered the possibility that this is meant to be a satirical spoof, like one of those you can find in the Onion? This is the impression I have the first time when I read the poem in Chinese. My feeling is further confirmed after I’ve read through pages and pages of comments in the Chinese blogs that carry the story. I’ve yet to find one Chinese commenter who is taking this seriously. Whoever does the English translation has totally missed the point.

    As one of the Chinese commenters pointed out, the use of the word 天朝 (celestial dynasty) is a dead give away. Anyone who has studied Chinese history in a PRC school will know that this is a derogatory term for China’s imperial past. The teachers who “directed” this performance would not have taken this as a serious patriotic exercise. Everyone knows it’s supposed to be an inside joke.

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  5. C.A., my hunches tell me that the kids there take their roles pretty serious – and the surroundings look pretty authentic. I’m careful about the message of this, and how far it an indication of Chinese nationalism. But Chinese schoolage children being used by a movie director to make fun of Chinese nationalism looks unlikely to me.
    As for the “dynasty” stuff, I can’t judge how accurate the translation is. But this is another paradox these days – what used to be “jiu shehui” (old society) discarded by the better days under the CCP is being revived, too. May be some day, a party congress will decide that the Dowager Empress was “50% bad, 50% good”. As for Chinese commenters not taking this seriously: maybe true – I hope so. But giggling when you are embarrassed is no unusual reaction in China either.

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  6. I have to say that I have heard some pretty mental things coming out of the mouths of Chinese teachers. One economic lecturer at the university I used to work at told his students in all seriousness that Chinese unemployment was caused by foreigners stealing Chinese jobs (I say again: a university economics lecturer), a primary school teacher I knew genuinely told her students that Hong Kong was poor before ’97, and that all the sky-scrapers you see in HK were built after reunification, another used to tell her students that the USA still has conscription, and that Mao Zedong invented the wristwatch. I guess this isn’t so surprising given the fact that a lot of today’s teachers might not have had a proper education themselves. The kind of fascistic nonsense coming out of these kid’s mouths wouldn’t be amazingly out of place in the Chinese classroom.

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  7. JR,
    As you can see from the Pingback above, I’ve posted my comment at my blog. I only did that because there are too many links in that comment and it’s also a bit too long. Check it out if you have time. I don’t intend to write about this topic at my blog. Therefore I’m not accepting comments for that thread and I’m directing all comments to you here.

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  8. C.A.,

    thanks for your comment. I’ll study the sources your post links to when I’m back to my computer – the one I’m using en route right now doesn’t read Chinese.

    Anyway, Hermit has politely asked the patriotic teacher(s) to authenticate themselves, and maybe they’ll do this here – would be a nice scoop, eh?
    That said, I’m not thinking of my humble blog as a news website.

    As for TPD, I think Richard is sort of reeling between his conflicting (strong) feelings about China. Every few days he has an encounter with something simply beyond belief, about the joys of learning Chinese, and how terrible China Daily is.

    I’m looking forward to reading (and maybe translating) a bit of the Chinese threads. I worship speculation.

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  9. “Every few days he has an encounter with something simply beyond belief…”

    He’s developing a fine little tabloid there. Soon one expects him to start producing headlines like, “KYLIE MINOGUE SITED IN SHANGHAI GAY BAR! SIMPLY BEYOND BELIEF!”

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  10. C.A.,

    I agree with you that there is no authentication, and there probably won’t be any. But as far as I can see, the background explanation and the public announcement suggest that the last thing the teacher had in mind was “subversion”. The approach that it was “unfair” to spread this video further and add headlines like “video leaves Westerners in terror” looks naive to me, but authentic too…

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  11. Ned:

    nice scenario. But don’t turn this here blog into a criticize-TPD-platform!

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  12. JR,

    When I first read your comment this morning, I tend to agree with you that the background and public announcement sound authentic and plausible. But I am now changing my mind after I’ve discovered:

    1. The putative author seems to have retracted from her claim as the author of the poem, after she was interrogated by commenters for details about the recording. Instead, she just insists that she posted the video online.

    2. She is also changing her position about not wanting to draw attention to the video. She is now demanding more open public discussion about her public announcement. To that end, she is now splashing her “2009 Go China” posts everywhere. She even sets up a new website at Sina, one of the most popular portal, to publicize the video.
    (I can’t post all the links here. But go and read all her postings at Bullog under the name shuangxiazuoyou. Read those that’s not related to the video as well. And of course read the comments too. The link at Sina: http://blog.sina.com.cn/ctgliyuming )

    3. A Sina blogger Tuluotuo posted a very good analysis of the video from a linguistics perspective. I agree with most of his findings. Tuluotuo classifies those responsible for the production of the video as some kind of disfranchised university students who are trying to draw attention to themselves. Tuluotuo also concluded from the children’s accent and the setting of the video that this is filmed in a country school just outside of Beijing. Those who directed the performance could have been studying Education in a University and had been posted to a country school to do their practicum. Like me, Tuluotuo also thinks that the kids are too young to be in a senior high school. I also agree with Tuluotuo that the school teachers in China might be very f**ked up in many ways, but they won’t be allowed to openly push forward an anti-foreigners agenda without risking their jobs. Besides, most primary and junior high teachers in country schools will not have the language skills to write this kind of poems.

    Here is the link to Tuluotuo’s post: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_5cccda490100b7sb.html

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  13. What does “最牛” mean? (From “…不叫什么“令西方丧胆”的“最牛”小学生朗诵。只是一个号召09年自强的普通活动,没必要上纲上线”).

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  14. C. A.,

    I’ll refer to the lady as a teacher, as long as I don’t know better…
    Seems she bases her argumentation on corporatism – there’s a number of posts there on her website already, including some ideological underpinnings.
    This has been a matter of discussion for a long time – Kang Xiaoguang, a professor at the People’s University in Beijing, has tried to blend corporatism and Confucianism philosophically for the past four years or so. In a way, his tries to think about society fundamentally seems to mirror the ways of this teacher – speaking first, getting frightened by a rather critical public echo and starting to rationalize what they said before in a “scientific” way.
    I’m not sure though that translating from the teacher’s blog would be worthwile. It looks very defensive and sort of whiny to me. Would you recommend to spend some translation work on it?

    As for the qualifications it would take to write a recital like the one acted out in the video, I think both Tuluotuo and you might underestimate the skills of country teachers. Singtao Ribao carried a story some weeks ago about a job fair where highly-skilled graduates looked out for jobs in the public service, as this looks safer now than jobs in foreign-invested companies or in top-tier Chinese companies. That could mean a high degree of frustrations to vent (nationalism usually comes as a handy valve in such cases), but it would also mean some degree of qualification.

    Either way – be it a routine classroom event as explained by the teacher in the beginning (a teacher’s reaction to the childrens’ apparent “lack of patriotic awareness”), or an outside educational university students’ project who enacted this video piece with a school class somewhere around Beijing – I’d still say this looks like a pretty “telling” video. Also, even if the “teacher” is in fact a moderator, only patriotic motives seem to be acceptable explanations for it.

    Lemme see if this comment with the links included passes my spam filter. If not, I should somewhat liberalize the filter.

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  15. “牛”含有“了不起”、“厉害”、“一般人做不到”这样的意思

    In English, it is equivalent to “cool” and “awesome”. The expression is generally used for describing some bizarre or extraordinary events or people.

    You also asked: “I’m not sure though that translating from the teacher’s blog would be worthwile. It looks very defensive and sort of whiny to me. Would you recommend to spend some translation work on it?”

    I’ve been asking myself the same question too. But so far I’m inclined not to so do. 2 issues are bothering me: (1) I am still not convinced that the one who is putting her hand up is actually the one who is responsible for this video. (2) The more she goes on justifying her action the more I think that she is lying and is only admitting to it for publicity reasons. Mind you I’m not the only person who says that. Several commenters have already pointed it out.

    My suggestion is, if you are translating her posts, you should also translate or at least do a summary of the different views expressed by Chinese commenters towards the video. I think that this is a bit objective and fair. Don’t get me wrong. As you know me, I’m not the type who advocates fair and balanced views. But given the uncertainty surrounding this incident, it may be a good approach to cover our back, so to speak, so that we don’t look like a fool should things turn out differently, if you know what I mean.

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  16. Well… anyway, Tuoluoto’s blog makes a more interesting read.

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